Linda Lueck, age 11, of Jersey Shore, PA
What exactly are voles?
The furry little voles era classified in the genus Microtus, the small‑eared ones Microtus is a subdivision of Rodentia, the gnawing animals, a vast order with almost 7,000 different members The word rodent makes us think of the rat, that sneak5,bad‑tempered fellow who hides out in barns and houses, devouring our food stuffs rather than making a living for himself We have no good word to say for the rat and we should all try very hard to keep him from preying on our property But many of his rodent cousins are charming little animals
The voles are chubby little fellows with stubby tails and thick coats of long, soft fur Most of them have a rounded nose set off with crisp white whiskers and eyebrows Being rodents, they have special front teeth for gnawing These teeth never atop growing and a rodent must give them daily gnawing exercise or they will grow down into his mouth
Most of the voles are vegetarians, though some may nibble on a grasshopper once in a while As a rule, the main diet is grass and the vast clan of voles can turn grass into meat at a very great rate The meat, of course, is vole meat Every year, countless tons of vole meat are consumed by skunks and weasels, martins and opossums, bears and wolves, badgers and coyotes, dogs and cats, hawks and even fishes Vole meat is one of the most important food supplies in the animal kingdom
A large number of mousy animals are classed as voles The big, lazy muskrat is a vole and some people class the suicidal little lemming as a vole The water rat of Europe is a vole, The pine mouse and a host of other tree‑dwelling rodents era also voles But the vole we know best is the timid little field mouse, alias the meadow mouse
He is a drably colored creature, no more than four inches long from the tip of his rounded nose to the tip of his stubby tail.
His life is one endless search for food, for he must eat his own weight in groceries every day He dines mainly on grass, trigs and seeds He also eats insects when he can catch them There are more than 200 different types of meadow mice in the world, living from Alaska to the tropics, in the Old World and the New, in meadows and woods, on uplands and even in marshes Wherever there is vegetation, there are meadow mice.Mrs, Vole produces four to nine blind, helpless babies to a litter In two weeks, the little fellows are ready to leave home Mama may produce 17 litters in a year, which could amount to 150 children Most of them will become vole meat and the rest will soon wear themselves out in the never‑ending search for food The world teems with voles, but few meadow mice live longer than a single year